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More than just a building: First-ever Kamloops food hub kitchen set to open

More than just a building: First-ever Kamloops food hub kitchen set to open

Kent Fawcett is the Food Hub coordinator for the Kamloops Food Policy Council.

Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Kent Fawcett

A food hub currently under construction on Kamloops’s North Shore should be open next month.

The Stir’s Food Processing and Innovation Centre will be a hub for businesses, farmers, makers and customers with a focus around locally produced and locally processed foods. It will feature a multi-use kitchen with rental space for small businesses, and a “stirfront.”

The hub is part of a provincial pilot project by The Food Hub Network that began in Kamloops in 2019 through the Kamloops Food Policy Council.

READ MORE: The future of food processing is coming to Kamloops 

“The street-facing Stirfront will offer a local retail experience to our community where they can purchase locally made food, pick up CSA boxes of locally grown produce directly from local farmers and participate in pop-up events and workshops,” food hub coordinator Kent Fawcett said. “It is set to open in the spring. The kitchen in the back will be opening next month and is available to rent by local food businesses on an hourly and monthly basis.”

Fawcett said member businesses will have access to shared equipment for large-scale production and packaging of canned and dried foods. Walk-in refrigeration and warehouse space will enable these businesses to scale-up their operations and wholesale to retail stores across B.C. and Canada.

He said there is still space available for local businesses to rent. 

The Stir is a name that embodies the whole project, not just the Innovation Centre.

“We are more than just a building,” Fawcett said. “The Stir is a network of shared facilities, support, and resources spread across the Kamloops region. We partner with the culinary arts program at the university, and offer food education and commercial kitchen rentals at Open Door Group Gardengate Training Centre. We grow and distribute local food with the Butler Urban Farm and work to enrich Indigenous food sovereignty with the Kweseltken Kitchen Mobile Food Processing Trailer.”

In February, the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture announced funding for four new food hubs for the province, including $750,000 to build this one in Kamloops. The community-run centres offer commercial space and equipment to small farmers and food processors who can’t afford their own facilities, helping them stay in business and bolstering local food security.

READ MORE: Why community-run food hubs like this one in Kamloops could be key to better food security

“The big goal of the (Kamloops) Food Policy Council is to create a food system that is sovereign (that) goes back into supporting our environment and supporting our people,” Fawcett said.

About two-thirds of B.C.’s food is imported, according to a 2020 report commissioned by Metro Vancouver. Most will have gone through some degree of processing facility that transforms raw ingredients into everything from canned beans to cuts of beef.

For farmers, that’s made selling to local markets challenging. Food safety requirements mean manufactured products like hummus or jam — which generate more income for producers than raw ingredients — need to be made in a commercial kitchen. But upfront costs to build one are a major barrier for many farmers and small-scale food processors.

“A lot of food producers are interested in (a food hub) because they want to scale up their business, but they don’t necessarily want to take on all that risk… The sharing model is just sort of the best thing going forward,” Fawcett said.

As the opening day for the The Stir’s Food Processing and Innovation Centre is swiftly approaching, Fawcett said the best way to support right now is by spreading the word.

“We’re also accepting donations from community members and corporate sponsors to donate to the project and become founding members,” he said.

The Stir headquarters is located at 185 Royal Avenue.

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